I grew up listening to country music, and for a while in high school, I was obsessed. I went to a different country music concert every month. I spent way too much money getting the best tickets. The music was fun, great for sing-alongs at concerts and reminded me of my life in rural Pennsylvania.
Then, I went to college in Pittsburgh and started listening to it less and less. I still went to the concerts and had fun, but I started listening to a variety of music. When I moved to Madison, I stopped listening to country entirely. I finally accepted myself as a gay man, and fell in love with life in the city…so I felt country music didn’t really represent me anymore.
Yes, there are still the songs that remind me of growing up in the backwoods of the Allegheny Mountains, but I find modern country music to just be too xenophobic against city-dwellers and oftentimes homophobic.
So, imagine my surprise when I discovered Steve Grand, a gay country singer, and the song “All-American Boy.” Go ahead, watch the video.
It’s about a gay man at a party in the woods hanging out with his best friend. His best friend is dating a woman who doesn’t treat him right, and the gay man starts to fall for his best friend.
The song reaches a climax when the two friends are skinny dipping, and the singer goes in for a kiss while the two are wrestling in the water. Musically, this moment is very powerful in the song, and Steve Grand appears with his arms in the air as if it’s the most exciting moment of his life. We all hope for a happy ending…
But, alas, his friend is straight, and he pushes away wondering why the hell Steve kissed him. The two go back to the party and the friend tells Steve that it’s okay…but he goes on to dance with the attractive women at the party.
I’m really not sure how I feel about this song, and the comments on the Youtube video are predictably mixed.
This is something that every gay man has dealt with – attraction to a straight friend, oftentimes a best friend. It’s difficult for us to differentiate genuine friendship with romantic interest when we are still trying to come to grips with our own selves. And if you’re still in the closet, the difficulty grows exponentially. Perhaps your friend is also in the closet? You’ve dated women, too…so maybe he is just like you?
But our biggest fear is that if we divulge that attraction, or make a move, then we will be rejected like Steve was in the song. And the friendship will be ruined.
Some of the comments on the video are criticizing Steve for making this video because it’s telling gay men that it’s okay to kiss their straight friends. That’s a valid point. That’s one of the biggest reasons that people oppose homosexuality, they fear that all gay men will suddenly start hitting on them. This only emphasizes that fear.
At the same time, though, this is a very real struggle that the gay community must deal with. How do we handle our attraction to straight men?
Is it any different than when a woman hits on me at the bar? Society sees that as perfectly acceptable, even though I’m not interested. Is it any different than when a straight man tries to kiss a straight woman who is not interested?
I’m interested to hear what people think.
And as for Steve Grand, I think it’s a bout damn time country music starts exploring these issues. There are plenty of gays and lesbians that grew up in the sticks that are just waiting for a country singer to start speaking to them. Just look at how much this song hit close to home for me.
I don’t think I’ve come to a conclusion yet on this song, but it’s a great start and I hope Steve continues to tackle difficult issues like this.